Bad Educators, Evolution and God’s Hurricanes

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We attended a branch today for the baby blessings of some of our friends. It was nice having a bit of a break from our ward and being somewhere new. Things are always different to some degree in a branch given the very fundamental differences between a branch and a ward.

Sacrament meeting was quite normal. It was a fast and testimony meeting, which can always be fodder for good blog material. Only one thing caught my attention though. In one person’s “testimony”, he made mention that God’s hand is evident in the recent barrage of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. He made particular reference to Hurricane Jeanne and God’s hand guiding it wherever it goes.

Naturally, I have a problem with this thought. I have a problem believing that God directed a hurricane to the poorest countries in the western hemisphere in order that one and a half thousand people would be killed. What horrendous sins could these 1,500 men, women and children committed that would warrant God sending a relentless hurricane to a country already reeling from thousands killed this spring in massive floods and February in civil war.

Sunday School was quite uneventful. Then along came priesthood.

It is a joint elders and high priests meeting. I am not sure what the lesson was about since it seemed a mishmash of this and that. Supposedly, it was loosely based on a Meridian Magazine article of which I did not catch the name. Two points came up with which I took issue.

The first issue started when the instructor started discussing the deplorable moral condition in the public school system. Naturally, many in the meeting agreed with him and were quick to offer their support in similar veins of detesting the poor jobs of today’s educators.

After about fifteen minutes, I grew tired of it and spoke up. I reminded everyone that it is not the responsibility of our educators to teach our children about morality. It is not the responsibility of our educators to teach our children right and wrong. Actually, when it comes down to it, that responsibility doesn’t even lie with Primary and Sunday School teachers. It lies with the parents. Parents have the God-given responsibility to teach children morality; to teach them what is right and wrong and why we need to “choose the right”. If today’s generation is derelict, delinquent and disregardful, we should not look to the teacher to lay blame. We should take ownership of our failure to fulfill the responsibility that is given to us.

The second issue started when the instructor showed that in 1830 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organised and subsequently taught that six years later Charles Darwin introduced his theory of natural selection. The instructor then used this chronological comparison to point out that evolution is the work of Satan.

To be sure I understood the instructor’s message, I restated, “Are you saying that evolution is satanic”.


“I completely disagree.”

That’ when the rest of the lesson was shot. From there, it didn’t take long for someone to say that evolution opposed Jesus Christ; that we didn’t come from apes; that evolution is a false doctrine; that the temple teaches that evolution was not how God created Adam.

Expectedly,  I addressed those issues. Actually, I didn’t address how evolution opposed the Saviour. Rather I asked how it opposed the Saviour. There was no answer given.

I reiterated the ignorant argument that we didn’t come from apes. I clarified to this brother unfamiliar with the theory of evolution that apes and humans shared a common ancestor, not that humans came from apes.

I asked the individual who stated evolution was a false doctrine why he thought that. He said “the prophet”  said it is. In all the years I have been studying statements of general authorities on evolution, I have yet to come across a single statement that said it was a false doctrine. The closest I have ever seen is when Joseph F. Smith claimed evolution was a theory of man. Of course, the theory of gravity, the theory of wave-particle duality of light and the theory of relativity are all theories of men. Being a theory of man does not make it false.

Finally, I corrected that the temple offers no clarification whatsoever regarding the process God used to create the earth and Adam.

I felt alone in that class. I felt alone among many brethren in the priesthood who hold fast to traditions because they do not want to take the time to research information for themselves. I felt alone since no one came up to me after and commented either way on my contribution to the discussion. I should point out that one other brother did mention that Brigham Young stated that we do not know what method God used in the creation.

You know, if the subject of evolution being taught in the schools had only been mentioned in brief passing, I likely would not have said anything. What made me respond was the statement based in ignorance and assumption that stated evolution was absolutely of Satan.

Maybe if the instructor had stuck to the lesson materials suggested by the correlation department, we wouldn’t have had this mess.

20 thoughts on “Bad Educators, Evolution and God’s Hurricanes

  1. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are (as Dad would describe) like cattle, they just blindly follow the lead person with no thoughts being put in the process. People do not pray for their own acknowledgements of the scriptures or gospel doctrine. They just do because “someone said so”. My heart always goes out to the new members who always seem to be in these type of classes and how they can be so easily swayed to have their beliefs warped.

    I rememeber shortly after I was baptized and I was asked to teach a Homemaking class on Simple Desserts. As I was teaching the class, I went to put Vanilla in the whatever I was making and one sister literally gasped out loud “You aren’t using that are you”? I said yes of course. She replied “Being a new member no one probably told you but we don’t use vanilla in our cooking as it goes against the Words of Wisdom.” Now this wasn’t even real vanilla to boot but plain old imitation 1.99 for a gallon vanilla.

    I can not even begin to count how many times Dad and or I have been in RS, SS or Priesthood classes only to get a lesson about things that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as we think “where did that come from”.

    I am thankful Kim that you are the type of person that does question what people say and that you get your own affirmations for what is right and wrong. I just don’t like it when I hear someone felt alone in a church meeting. It makes me think of all those who don’t say that but just quietly stay away.

  2. While I agree with you that the church holds no official position on “Evolution,” I can agree with the class instructor to some degree as well.

    The “Evolutionary” hypothesis as it is meant by its proponents does in fact conflict directly with the gospel. When scientists talk about the “Theory of Evolution” what they mean is Naturalistic Macro-Evolution; the idea that speciation is brought ot pass by purly materialistic and naturalistic means. The theory in the way it is formulated does not allow for any supernatural influence and excludes the possiblility of a Creator in its fundamental assumptions.

    While micro-evolution, or adaptive evolution within a species, is a proven and observable fact, macro-evolution of one species into another is, to date, a completely unproven hypothesis. Evolutionists like to act as if micro-evolution and macro-evolution are one and the same because they only have substantial evidence for the micro evolution.

    Most LDS members I know accept “Evolution” with the idea that God could have used it as the mechanism for creation. Yet the theory itself excludes that possibility.

    The Church of Darwin

  3. Oddly enough Ebenezer, most LDS members I know do not accept evolution at all. Actually, this makes the second priesthood meeting in which I have been the only proponent of evolution.

    Admittedly, I am not absolutely knowledgeable concerning all aspects of evolution, but I do not see how the current theory of evolution precludes any supernatural influence. If I am not mistaken, the theory of evolution covers only the move from one species into others. It is my understanding that the theory of evolution does not cover the materials that were in place when life first began, nor how those materials came into existence.

  4. Kim,

    Nice post. That was very interesting and it’s sad that priesthood instruction sinks to such absurd levels in some places.

    My understanding is that general authorities have disagreed on evolution and that the Church does not have any formal position on the matter.

  5. I’ve got the Biology degree, so I’ll jump in as the evil evolutionist (although I don’t completely buy natural selection either).

    There are documented cases of speciation, one species giving rise to a different species. In the biological sense, the definition of a species is a reproductively isolated creature. Species A cannot breed with Species B.

    Most of the non-anecdotal cases of speciation (an anecdotal example being Darwin’s finches, in which they can all be traced to a common ancestor, yet vary in morphology somewhat) occur in the lab. Several single-cell and other simple organisms have transformed from one species to another through the manipulation of laboratory conditions. I could give specific examples, but just do a quick google for speciation and you’re sure to find enough.

    Quite a leap from humans, but an observable phonomenon nonetheless.

  6. Thanks for your input John. I’m not a biologist, but it seems to me that all of the examples of speciation are highly dependent on a very technical definition of “species.”

    When we define species merely by reproductive isolation, we can include reproductive incompatibility due to morphological or behavioral factors and call it a new species. That means that if we can selectively breed fruit-flies in a lab until the shapes of the reproductive organs have become incompatible with other fruit-flies, or until their courtship behaviors do not coincide with other flies, we call it a new species even though they are still genetically compatible and would be capable of producing fertile offspring with other flies if not for their morphological or behavioral differences.

    Even when genetic incompatibility can be introduced, the fact is that they are still fruit-flies and so this type of speciation is practically indistinguishable from plain old micro-evolution. We still have seen no evidence that fruit-flies could be become mosquitoes through successive decent with modification, let alone a hyrax become an elephant or a manatee.

    There is some good information about the various definitions of “species” and their relationship to examples of speciation here.

    Even if something as dramatic as a fruit-fly to a mosquito through selective breeding were to be demonstrated in a lab, it would not prove anything concerning the hypothesis of macro-evolution because it would have been accomplished by the guidance of the intelligent minds of the scientists. It would prove that decent with modification is capable of producing new species when guided by intelligence. The assertion that unguided, naturalistic selection is capable of speciation would still remain unsupported.

  7. The difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution is largely one of time.

    When scientists want to observe macroevolution, they generally have to manipulate laboratory conditions, etc., because speciation is generally a gradual process, which takes a LONG time. It would be nice if we could observe the genetic changes that *naturally* happen over thousands of years, but we don’t live long enough.

    I bet the Lord has been witness to plenty of speciation events, after preparing the waters to bring forth life. :-)

    By the way, evolution is not only taught at BYU, it is RESEARCHED. Several scientists there have done groundbreaking work in insect evolution, for example.

  8. “The second issue started when the instructor showed that in 1830 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organised and subsequently taught that six years later Charles Darwin introduced his theory of natural selection. The instructor then used this chronological comparison to point out that evolution is the work of Satan.”

    I heard this comparison in Relief Society once. Somebody must have written about it somewhere, and it’s become one of those Mormon Urban Legends, like the “missionary conference at the WTC.” The “instructor” in this case didn’t even have his facts straight: although Darwin returned from his voyage in 1836, he ddidn’t devise his theory until later, and didn’t publish it until 1858, which is eighteen years (not six) after the founding of the Church.

    By the logic of the chronological comparison, the following events must be Satanical as well:

    1831: Charles Babbage describes his “Analytical Engine” (predecessor to the computer).

    1834: Founding of Toronto.

    1835: P.T. Barnum and his circus begins first tour of the U.S.

    1836: The Alamo falls.

    1839: First recorded use of American slang “OK.”

    1841: February 18 – The first ongoing filibuster in the United States Senate begins and lasts until March 11.

    1848: University of Wisconsin, Madison is founded. (Actually, I can see some evil influence at work here. Spent four years at the UW in grad school. Hated the place.)

  9. There are a couple things one should note when trying to discuss Evolution. First is that the contention of the Priesthood Meeting in question is a proverbial love-fest when compared to the typical academic evolution conference. Whereas the Priesthood meeting invariably ends with feigned attempts at charity/brotherhood and an admonition to take any questions to the lord, the Academic conference ends in ends in unfeigned loathing and an admonition to take questions to Hell. There is more and better criticism within the world of evolution than outside it. That said, there is a huge diversity of evolutionary theory. This spans ideas that the laws of physics are such that life is inevitable to this is the biggest accident in the universe. This is inevitable because it takes time to do any practical experimentation to verify theory (like hundreds of millions of years).

    I believe in Evolution. I am also a quasi-faithful Latter-day Saint (or at least I make an half hearted attempt to be worthy of the appellation). This is probably not the venue for the reconciliation of the two, so I won’t.

    I did have a friend (who happened to be in CES…I was surprised we got along as well) who told me that one could not believe in Evolution and the Atonement of Jesus Christ concurrently. I just kind of looked at him funny and then changed the subject. The bottom line is that I would not change his perspective in the time we had (we were counting tithing at the time). The important thing is to challenge unfounded ideas as they occur (even though they may not be reconciled) and don’t get offended.

  10. The whole dichotomy with the Atonement and Evolution comes from Joseph F. Smith. His argument was that Evolution didn’t concur with the Fall. No Fall, no need for Atonement. No Atonement no Christ. I don’t think his premise of disagreement between the Fall and evolution is very sound, but that’s just me.

  11. “The whole dichotomy with the Atonement and Evolution comes from Joseph F. Smith.”

    Gasp! You mean a general authority gave his opinion on a topic and everyone took it as gospel? The horror!

  12. Feb 15, 1957
    Dear Bro. Stokes,
    One the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position. The book “Man, His Origin and Destiny” was not published by the Church, and is not approved by the Church.
    The book contains expressions of the author’s views for which he alone is responsible.
    Sincerely your brother,
    [Signed David O. McKay]

    Available in The Search For Harmony, 292.

    The horror indeed.

  13. I found this very interesting. Two years ago, while visiting my daughter’s ward in Sandy Utah, I heard this kind of rubbish (evolution = atheism) from a member of the high priests’ quorum (not the teacher). I was appalled. My thought was, “Is this the level of thought here? He can’t get away with this.” And I began to refute him. To my surprise and contentment everybody else in the class believed as I did, and answered him more effectively and more eloquently than I had. So things weren’t as bad as I had thought.

    There are people everywhere who are ignorant, and mentally lazy. We have to try not to let that bother us.

    My belief is, “Everything legitimately discovered by science tells us what God did, and how he did it.”

  14. I’ve spent most of my life as a professional biologist, and I’ve had a particular interest in the evolution/creation debate. But, I’ll restrain myself and offer a limited comment.

    First, I have both studied and taught evolution and many other scientific theories at the college level of many years. To my mind, as a theory of science, evolution is rock solid. I know of no other theory that is better supported among the biological sciences.

    Secondly, I should point out that while the theory of evolution does not include God in its equation, neither does the theory of gravity – or any other scientific theory. Until we devise an experiment that provides evidence of the existance of God, we can’t include Him as a variable. And I don’t think it’s in His mind to let us do that right away.

    Third, (excuse me for being a little personal here) when I was a young man I was informed that if I persisted in my outlandish thoughts I would place myself on the road to apostasy. Well, it’s been over half a century – so far so good.

    I mostly keep my mouth shut in Sunday School – mostly that is. I’m rather tired of this one, frankly. We should think about growing out of it.


  15. “while the theory of evolution does not include God in its equation, neither does the theory of gravity”

    A few years ago, we had this exact discussion. We were studying the Presidents of the Church manual (I believe John Taylor), and the person in the manuals mentioned that evolution is a theory of man. Others in the class automatically equated “theory of man” with being false.

    I pointed out gravity as another theory of man. No one seemed to want to argue that theory was false.

  16. I think part of the problem with evolution is the timing. People think of evolution as having occurred when the earth and Adam and Eve were created in the Garden, and that doesn’t fit well with LDS doctrine.

    According to LDS doctrine, the earth, Adam and Eve, and the Garden were created as immortal objects — there was no death. Evolution obviously couldn’t have occurred then, since evolution requires death.

    So, when could evolution have been used by God in the creation? After the earth was created with mortal matter, i.e. after Adam and Eve made their decision to have the earth become mortal.

    I’ve written an essay to discuss this “hypothesis” in more detail. Those interested can download the essay at

    Please note that I am not presenting this hypothesis as fact or as church doctrine. It is just one way to give a correlation between a scientific principle and the scriptural view of the creation.

  17. Looks like another great reason to use the lesson curriculum prescribed by the Church rather than wing it on some off-topic magazine article and invite a barrage of personal, non-doctrinal opinions about personal, non-doctrinal issues.

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